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Game Mode: Consoles And Community

Cosplayers pose at gaming convention E3.
Paige Osburn/WAMU
Cosplayers pose at gaming convention E3.

Your spaceship just crash landed. It’s dark. Someone — or something — is lurking nearby. You and your crew have no choice but to grab your weapons and hunt the aliens…before they hunt you.

If you love this kind of action-based scenario, you’re probably a gamer. You’re not alone. Nearly 70 percent of Americans say they play video games. You’re also not likely to be playing alone.

MMOs, or massively multiplayer online games, are hugely popular in part because of the many ways people can connect to each other during gameplay. While alien hunting or creating worlds or on a combat rescue mission, you can catch up with old friends, make new ones and build relationships that have real-world implications.

Reporter and gamer Cecilia D’Anastasio writes in Kotaku:

Most gaming platforms let users know when their friends are online or what game they’re playing, also offering a method for getting in touch. Discord, for example, displays a green light next to a friend’s name, plus details on what game they’re playing. On the PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One, players can request to join friends’ groups in online multiplayer games if they’re visibly online, like dropping down a coaster and a pint of beer at your friends’ bar table.

Some gaming communities, though, aren’t inclusive and can take on a toxic tone targeting certain gamers — specifically women and minorities. Game developers who see the potential for audience growth have started to address how to make safer spaces for all players online.

CNET reports:

In the past, companies largely left players to sort themselves out. But now, with multiplayer aspects of games like EA’s Battlefield war simulation franchise growing in popularity alongside gaming social networks like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, companies say they’re compelled to start influencing the culture of players in their games for the better.

“There was a period of time where it was accepted — that’s how games are,” said Chris Bruzzo, EA’s head of marketing, who also helped head up its healthy communities summit. “We’ve started to hear more and more from players that this wasn’t something they wanted to tolerate anymore.”

To kick off our special series 1A Game Mode, we take a look at how the perception of playing video games has changed from that of an anti-social act to an activity that centers on friendship, kinship and community-building.

Plus, we meet gamer and content creator Kristen Michaela Valnicek, better known as KittyPlays. She has more than a million followers on the gamer streaming platform Twitch and hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers.

We talk to her about what got her into gaming and why so many people flock to her videos.


Kristen “KittyPlays” Valnicek, Twitch streamer; head of gaming initiatives, Gen G; @KittyPlays

Mark “Markiplier” Fischbach, YouTube creator; @markiplier

Ion Hazzikostas, Game director, World of Warcraft; @WatcherDev

Cecilia d’Anastasio, Senior reporter, Kotaku;@cecianasta

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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